Monday, December 30, 2019

Movie with Abe: Beanpole

Directed by Kantemir Balagov
To Be Released January 29, 2020

Raising a child under conventional circumstances with a fellow parent can be challenging enough, and when that additional person doesn’t exist and the surrounding world is anything but tranquil, the difficulty is multiplied exponentially. There are stories throughout history of parents doing incredible things for their children, many of which were successful and others which were not. It’s unfair to judge those who must combat incredible odds for survival and perseverance, especially when it is clear just how many obstacles they face.

Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko), a tall, lanky blonde woman, has been discharged from the Russian army due to frequent spells in which she finds herself frozen in place and unable to move or speak, and works as a nurse in a hospital in Leningrad in 1945. She raises a son, Pashka (Timofey Glazkov), giving him anything she gets, including an extra ration of food obtained from a recently-deceased staff member at the hospital. When the boy’s mother, Iya’s friend and fellow soldier Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), returns from the front, the situation and their relationship becomes extremely complicated as they navigate their priorities and their aspirations for what they can achieve in a continually crumbling world.

Iya is continuously referred to by Masha and everyone else she knows as Beanpole due to her tall stature, which often finds her standing a full head above even the head doctor. Her physical demeanor is not matched by her social presence, which is mostly meek and compliant. In sharp contrast to Iya, Masha is bold, flirtatious, and eager to communicate what she wants rather than be told what to do. As they interact with doctors, patients, and boys eager to get to know with them, the ways in which these two friends differ become clearer, making for a fascinating and eye-opening journey.

Miroshnichenko and Perelygina make this movie due to their carefully-calibrated performances, silent but strong for Iya and fearless and defiant for Masha. The film’s backdrops are purposefully bleak and depressing, and the colors worn by the two protagonists, both in clothing and complexion, help them to feel much more alive than anything around them. Russia's official Oscar submission and shortlisted finalist for Best International Feature inarguably and unapologetically a depressing film, but one that seeks to showcase the brief moments of joy found by those unable to escape a world they truly can’t control. Its two-hour-and-ten-minute runtime is long, but there’s a purpose to spending every moment with these two characters whose stories are well worth showcasing.


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